Currently browsing posts authored by David Dudley Field '25

Follow David Dudley Field '25 via RSS

← Previous PageNext Page →

Jews at Williams, 6

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 6.

[P]art of a larger shift, only complete after the end of WWII, from a system in which private boarding schools supplied Williams with its students, to one in which students were drawn equally from public high schools.

A central theme at EphBlog: Williams has changed much less over the last 50 years than most people claim. The College is guilty of feeding this belief with its recurrent claims that Williams is much more wonderful today than it has ever been before. The implication, of course, is that the folks who run Williams today are much smarter and/or less prejudiced than folks like Jack Sawyer ’39, much less Harry Garfield ‘1885. That is an ego-stroking story with, however, little basis in reality. The clearest place to see this trend is in admissions, where, to the extent there have been changes, those changes have been driven by outside forces. We started taking more students from public high schools 50 years ago, not because we started hating (private) Deerfield or liking (public) Scarsdale but because we started getting more interest from high quality applicants from public high schools than we used to get.

Williams does not seem to have experienced the dramatic shift in admissions policies seen at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton in the 1920s . . .

Correct. Now, we would like to believe the Williams administration was more enlightened and so never would have considered the Jewish quotas — and the rigamarole of “character” assessments associated with them — that HYP implemented. But it is even more likely that Williams was simply lucky. So few Jews applied that we felt no impetus to discriminate against them.

Ironically the very term “meritocracy” only came into widespread use long after the quota system was imposed at the Ivies. Conversations about access to elite institutions such as Williams in the 1870s, the 1920s, or the 1940s were not couched in terms of establishing a meritocracy. It was in 1958 that Michael Young published his satire The Rise of the Meritocracy, which playfully attacked the premise that meritocracy could thwart an unjust distribution of wealth and power by presenting a world in which the “best” of the oppressed classes are promoted into the ruling classes—thereby decimating the leadership pool of the former groups, which might have helped to create structural changes that erased inequality at its root. Young’s satire gave great currency to “meritocracy” despite its critique of meritocratic dreams, and it was during the turbulent 1960s that the idea of meritocracy was linked to the goal of making American higher education more diverse.

Young’s book is amazing. Highly recommended.

Facebooktwitter

Falk on Dallas

EphBlog has fallen down in terms of commenting on President Falk’s letters. Apologies! Let’s start to catch up today by revisiting this July 18, 2016 letter about the Dallas police office shootings.

Standing with Dallas, and against violence
July 18, 2016

To the Williams Community,

As many of you know, this weekend violence erupted in Dallas, Texas, at a “Black Lives Matter” rally. Many people were injured and five police officers were murdered. The violence occurred on and near a college campus.

The events in Dallas were horrible. Violence has no place in American life. By why is Adam Falk lecturing us? Doesn’t he have a job to do? Is he under the impression that there are any Ephs who are in favor of murder?

This is the most annoying sort of virtue signalling. Falk picks a topic on which every Eph agrees, and then wastes our time with his perfectly pedestrian prose. I no more need/want the president of Williams to “educate” me about current events (unrelated to Williams) then I need/want his advice about breakfast cereals.

The events in Dallas were an assault by organized forces of racism and bigotry — a vile and vicious attack on all Americans. That attack is antithetical to everything Williams stands for, and to the values I personally hold most dear. We all must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America.

Isn’t this a bit over the top? (Perhaps I should cut Falk some slack since he was writing just two days after the violence.) It is true that the shooter, Micah Johnson, had some ugly views and was associated with some horrible (in my view) organizations. But Falk seems to cast a very wide net here. Black Lives Matter, like all political movements, has its own set of crazies and extremists. But that reality does not mean that its fundamental point — that too many innocent blacks are killed by police — isn’t worthy of consideration.

This is not about partisan politics: Republicans, Democrats, and independents from across the political spectrum, and throughout our entire community, are united in opposition to such foul acts. We express our support for and solidarity with the people of Dallas, and with all who are the targets of bigotry and hatred.

True and trite.

Let me be clear. There is no moral equivalence between racists and those who oppose them. Hatred is immoral, undemocratic, and wrong. It has no place at Williams, nor should it be allowed a footing on any campus, nor in our society as a whole.

I agree that Micah Johnson was a racist and that part of his motivation in killing those police officers was anti-white animist. I also admit that other people (no more than a tiny percentage) associated with Black Lives Matter are racist and/or overly sympathetic to some fairly odious views. (I am most annoyed by Communist paraphernalia at these events.) I agree that “foul acts,” including violence (much less murder) are beyond the pale. But Falk seems to be saying more than this. He seems to be implying that, not just Micah Johnson, but also everyone else on that “side” of the debate has “no place at Williams.”

Indeed, Falk seems to be going even further, suggesting that racist views — at least views that Adam Falk deems “racist” — have no place in America. Does he really propose banning free speech for all Black Lives Matter activists? Jailing Communist sympathizers? Removing the protection of the First Amendment for “racists?” That seems a dangerous path to me . . .

Oh, wait a second! Adam Falk never sent out a letter about the violence in Dallas. (That was only five police officers killed by a black man! No reason for a Williams president to involve himself in a local tragedy, hundreds of miles away from Williamstown.) But Falk did write a letter about the violence in Charlottesville. I have made minimal changes in his letter to make it apply to Dallas last year (and added, as a special bonus, a Trump Easter Egg).

Do you think the President of Williams should sent out letters like this one? If so, do you think that he should have sent out a similar letter about the murders in Dallas?

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 5

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 5.

Wurgaft continues in the Introduction:

[F]or some of the informants interviewed for this study, the eventual inclusion of Jews within the Williams family constituted a kind of moral victory over a wicked old order. However, a careful examination of the events and debates that shaped Williams College in the twentieth century reveals not a series of heroic episodes but, instead, a slow progress toward institutional change in which the “actors” were more often impersonal forces such as the gradual diversification of America and of the American academy in general, rather than heroic college students, administrators, or faculty.

Exactly right, and a stark difference from the cheerleading described in the Record over Frank Oakley’s role. Given the (superb) academic qualifications of Jewish applicants, the rising wealth of Jewish families, and American society’s ever increasing distaste of anything resembling anti-Semitism, there is no scenario in which Williams does not become completely welcoming to Jewish students over the last 50 years. An easy way to see that this change was inevitable is to note that it occurred at every other school too!

Notably, it was not the case that in the first decades of the twentieth century Williams denied admission to all but the sons of wealthy WASPs. Like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton before 1920, Williams admitted students almost solely on the basis of academic accomplishment. However, the specific accomplishments required for admission were ones Jewish students, and students from poorer backgrounds, could rarely boast, and not for lack of ability but for lack of opportunity. Until the entrance of the Class of 1938, Williams required four years of Latin and two of Greek . . .

It would be one thing if Williams designed its entrance requirements to exclude Jewish (and poor) applicants, but no accounts suggests that we did. Instead, the men who ran Williams honestly thought such requirements were a good idea, in the same way that the people who run Williams today think that requiring standardized tests is a good idea, even if blacks/Hispanic do much worse on such tests than whites/Asians.

Facebooktwitter

Mozel Tof!

Mary Dettloff kindly forwarded this e-mail, especially relevant given this month’s focus:

Hi Mary :

Mazel tov!

Williams has earned top marks in a historic new ranking of Jewish life in U.S. colleges and universities. See where your institution ranked and how you compare here.

The first of its kind, the guide comes from the Forward, North America’s leading Jewish news organization since 1897. Forward College Guide draws from over 10,000 points of data to paint a real picture of Jewish life at 171 colleges and universities across the country. The Forward created a formula to rank the schools that took into account nearly 50 variables measuring things that matter to Jewish students and parents — not just academic quality and financial information, but also particularly Jewish concerns like kosher food accessibility, Jewish Greek life, anti-Semitism, Israel opportunities, Jewish extracurricular clubs, attendance at Hillel and Chabad events, and more.

I am sure that Williams does great on the “Jewish Greek life” criteria!

For the record, Williams ranks 39th.

Note the claim that 200 students at Williams are Jewish. Is this true? What is the source?

Facebooktwitter

No Anti-Semitism at Williams?

A reader asks:

Is your argument that there was no anti-semetism at Williams?

No! As we continue our 40 (!?) day review of Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft, my argument will be:

There was (and is!) antisemitism at Williams, just as there was (and is!) everywhere in this fallen world. But:

1) There was much less antisemitism at Williams than people now believe to have been the case. Many current Ephs suffer from the delusion (take pleasure in the fantasy?) that historical Williams was a bad place, filled with racism, antisemitism, misogyny, classism and a variety of other ills. That’s wrong, or at least a dramatic overstatement.

2) There was less antisemitism at Williams historically than there was at other elite colleges. The clearest example of this fact is that Harvard/Yale/Princeton had explicit quotas for Jewish enrollment while Williams did not. Wurgaft does not provide many (any?) comparisons to places like Amherst but my sense is that Williams also does well on dimensions like early Jewish representation on the board of trustees and on the faculty.

3) Much of what is described as “antisemitism” historically (and today) is not really antisemitism. See here for an example. If I am angry with someone and I call him an “ugly bastard,” I am not necessarily revealing that, in my heart-of-hearts, I am prejudiced against either the unattractive or the born-without-married-parents. I am simply choosing words which I hope will wound them. Similarly, a 1950s Eph calling someone an “ugly Mick” or “ugly Jew,” is not necessarily anti-Irish or anti-Jewish. (Of course, he might be! And he is certainly guilty of the (worse?) sin of rudeness. The right response to which is: Where did he prep?)

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 4

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 4.

Wurgaft writes in the Introduction:

And yet, during a period when Harvard, Yale, and Princeton maintained either de jure or de facto quotas against Jewish students, Williams had three Jews, members of its class of 1914, on its Board of Trustees. While some Jewish students experienced scarring episodes of anti-Semitism during their time at Williams, for others their identity attracted little or no attention whatsoever.

There is a credible case to be made that Williams was the least anti-Semitic elite college in the US during the 20th century. If not us, then who? Which other college had as many Jews on the Board during this period?

Not only did Jewish students seek to matriculate at those schools more frequently than at liberal arts colleges, the universities that combined great size and prestige—and perhaps Harvard especially—simply loomed larger on the national scene. While Williams, like other liberal arts colleges, has, through its distinguished alumni and faculty, influenced American cultural and political life out of proportion with its size, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were ever-present in the popular imagination and more likely to attract students whose families were not already affiliated with them in some fashion.

Exactly right. This is connected to the current debate over the Asian-American quota in the Ivy League. Most informed observers believe that Harvard, Yale, and Princeton discriminate against Asian-American applicants. The question, for EphBlog, has been: Does Williams do the same? We hope not! With luck, the same forces that allowed Williams to not discriminate against Jews 100 years ago — mainly a (relative) lack of interest from Jewish applicants — free Williams from discriminating against Asian-Americans today. Informed commentary welcome!

While the myth of “Old Abe” Rudnick may have surfaced only once or twice, the myth that Williams maintained a quota limiting Jewish enrollment has surfaced again and again. Many of the interviewees whose testimonies inform this project are confident that such a quota was in place as late as the early 1960s. No firm evidence of such a quota has been uncovered as of this writing, though that falls short of final refutation—however, there is ample evidence suggesting that precious few Jewish students applied to Williams until the 1950s and 1960s.

This is the most important conclusion of the book: There is no evidence that Williams discriminated against Jewish applicants. Hooray for us!

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 3

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 3.

Sigmund Balka ’56 writes in the forward:

I did, however, have two personal experiences of anti-Semitism that remain with me today. The first was simply a drunken classmate who, as I was waiting for a ride back from the Smith College campus, drove by and shouted out the window, “Jewish Turkey” and continued on his way. “Turkey” was the campus name given to those who were non-affiliates. I always thought the term “non-affiliate” was telling since it was stated as the negative of affiliation. I would have preferred to be called “independent.”

If this was one of the two most anti-Semitic acts that Balka witnessed (in the 1950s!), then Williams was among the least anti-Semitic places on Earth.

I am also always a little skeptical about the actual amount of anti-Semitism that underlies comments like this. Assume that the classmate did not like Balka. What if he had shouted “Fat Turkey” or “Ugly Turkey” or “Stupid Turkey?” Would that be better? Why? Indeed, if Balka were overweight or not handsome or not smart, he might have found these insults much more distressing than one which mentioned his faith.

Needless to say, drunken Williams students have been insulting each other for 200 years. That isn’t nice, but it is also fairly endemic to this fallen world of ours. In several of the more recent cases we have investigated at Williams, it was likely that the insultor did not truly harbor prejudice in his heart. Instead, he picked the most wounding words he could come up with.

The chef saw me and started shouting all over the dining room, “You goddamn Jew, why don’t you go back where you came from.” A professor who had assumed the task of being present for meals with the students immediately shouted at the chef that he was fired. This brought a round of applause from my fellow students who disliked the chef’s attempts at cooking. The next day I received a message from the administration asking me to please come in for a meeting. When I arrived I was welcomed by a senior administrator, who sat me down and began to apologize for what had happened. He informed me that no anti-Semitism would be tolerated and, intending to offer me comfort, assured me that one of the college food servers had a brother-in-law who was Jewish and that the college purchased its meat products from a distributor who was Jewish. This line of apologies inspired me to ask, “But sir, why do you think I am Jewish?” I saw the administrator’s bulbous face get redder and redder. I actually became fearful for a moment; it seemed possible he would suffer a stroke over his transgression, having named as a Jew someone who was not Jewish. After a pause, I assured him that I was indeed as he had thought. He was much relieved, normal color returning to his face.


Again, if open anti-Semitism resulted in getting fired, then just how anti-Semitic could Williams have been?

Also, what is the backstory? Who was this chef? What did he do after the College fired him? A central task for every historian is to develop empathy for everyone, not just for the “good guys” in a specific time period.

Facebooktwitter

Men and Women are Different

nar

The topic is this memo written by a Google engineer, who was then fired. More from Elissa Shevinsky ’01:

An internal post went viral at Google, and is now dominating the news cycle in tech / feminism. The resulting conversation has covered a lot of already familiar ground. Women and minorities continue to come forward with stories of discrimination, and white nationalists continue to complain that diversity efforts lower the bar.

If everyone who believes that men and women are biologically different — in ways that might effect job preferences — is a “white nationalists,” then . . .

Read Slate Star Codex for a thorough rebuttal.

But, as always, we need more Williams connections. How about a Record article which includes interviews with various Williams professors? I bet Nate Kornell would provide some nice crime-think on this topic!

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 2

Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 2.

The book is divided into a series of chapter written by Wurgaft, interspersed with reminisces from various alumni. This organization works extremely well. The forward (Confessions of a Jewish Elitist), by Sigmund Balka ’56, sets the stage wonderfully. He writes:

I think of myself as having become part of a “double elite” during my time at Williams; elite because of my family’s place in Jewish circles in the Philadelphia area, where I grew up, and because of my later professional accomplishments that Williams made possible.

I was drawn to Williams because of its academic excellence and small size—and by the tranquil environment of Williamstown. I knew that the college had few Jewish students, and was reputed to be an upper-class institution open only to students from high-society families who had attended leading preparatory schools.

The fraternities were such a dominant presence on campus that, when Jewish students were rejected for membership, they could view it as a rejection by Williams itself. Though many of them came from established families, perhaps the Jewish equivalents of the Social Registrants of Boston, New York, or Philadelphia, this meant nothing to the fraternity brothers. Being part of a Jewish elite was meaningless at Williams.

Indeed, only years after graduating would I learn how many Jewish classmates I had really had.

All the while I was conscious of the toll anti-Semitism had taken on many of my fellow Jewish students, … and aware that it did not have the same emotional impact on me.

These passages hint at a recurrent theme throughout the work, a theme mirrored in the larger society: the difference between German Jews, many of whose families were already elite by the early 1900s, and newly arriving Eastern European Jews, many of them poor and less acculturated to the mores of upper crust US society. Balka, like the vast majority of Jewish students at Williams before the 1950s, was a German Jew, someone whose family’s wealth made the transition to Williams much easier.

Facebooktwitter

Jews at Williams, 1

jawJews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 1.

From The Record in October 2013:

Last Saturday, the College community gathered together for the release of Jews at Williams, a book that details the struggle and growth of the Jewish community at the College from the institution’s founding to the construction of the Jewish Religious Center (JRC).

“This is a big deal for this college,” President Falk said at the book release. The book, commissioned by the College, shines a light on both the positive and negative aspects of Jewish life.

How much does it cost the College to “commission” a book like this? We amateur Eph historians certainly think it is worth it! Any suggestions for other books? I would love ones about the history of admissions and about the history of the endowment.

Wurgaft believes the book deals with two main concerns: “First, the structural factors that contributed to a distinctive pattern of Jewish experience at Williams, and second, the kind of response to that experience that the JRC instantiates,” he said. Jews at Williams examines the minority identity in higher education. “This is a story about college, class and American life, about who has access to which social networks and why and what happens when an immigrant group begins to move into pre-established networks,” Wurgaft said.

This seems a strange summary to me. Although the history of the JRC is covered, that history is a fairly small part of the entire story. Of course, if you are speaking at an event hosted by the JRC, you might shade things a bit!

To Wurgaft, one of the most important eras in Jewish history at the College was the 1980s. “[This] period matters a lot because it helps us understand what can happen when an institution attempts to engage with the prejudices and unsavory practices of its past,” Wurgaft said. During this time, President Francis Oakley moved the College beyond its anti-Semitic past to a welcoming future. While the fraternity system was disbanded prior to Oakley’s appointment as president, the College’s stigma as an unfriendly environment for Jews plagued admissions and Jewish enrollment.

Huh? The book offers zero evidence for this claim. Just how “unfriendly” towards Jews was the Williams in the decade before the start of Oakley’s presidency in 1985? Not very! Also, just how low was Jewish admissions and enrollment? The book offers no details. I think that we have a bunch of fake history in which everyone pretends that Williams was horrible and then, mirable dictu, Frank Oakley saved the day.

The truth is probably more boring. After 1965, Williams was as accepting of Jews as any elite college (or at least any elite college located in a rural setting with few Jewish residents) and this acceptance only get better over time, as it did elsewhere. But these improvements were smooth, without Oakley providing a major change from the Sawyer/Chandler eras. By 1995, with the appointment of Hank Payne as Williams’ first Jewish president, the process was complete.

“The College was not attracting the talented Jews in the numbers we should,” Oakley said during the panel, at the book’s release. To resolve this issue, the College constructed the (JRC). “The perception [of Williams] beyond the campus was trumping the realities,” Oakley said, but the JRC fixed that issue. His deepest wish was that the “opening of the JRC would speak to the depth of the College’s aspiration to be a community of hope.”

Again, the book offers little evidence about this claim. Certainly, there were specific Jewish high school students who did not apply to Williams (or did not enroll once accepted) because the College did not, for example, have (any?) Kosher meal options in the 1970s. And it is a good thing that the College now provides those options. But tossing around terms like “unfriendly” is an unfair slur against the men, like John Chandler and Jack Sawyer ’39, who ran Williams in the pre-Oakley era.

For Wurgaft, one of the most important purposes of the book is demonstrating “the persistent importance of social networks in modern times.” Social networking at the College was, until 1962, driven by the fraternity system. Jewish students were for the most part excluded from this system. There was discussion among Williams Jews in the 1950s focused on potentially creating a Jewish fraternity, but the idea was not pursued for fear that it might further divide the already isolated Jewish community.

OK. But how can the Record fail to report the most important finding in the book: Williams, unlike Harvard/Yale/Princeton, did not have a Jewish quota. This is the conclusion that most readers who be most surprised about, and impressed by. Instead of being “unfriendly,” the Williams of the pre-Oakley era was one of the most philosemitic elite collegse in the country. That is the central message of the book. Was it even mentioned at this event?

Facebooktwitter

Beschloss ’77 on Immigration

Via Steve Sailer, this discussion about Trump immigration policy featuring Michael Beschloss ’77:

Brian Williams: “Michael, when has Truth been doubted before, the way it has been doubted under this Administration by enormous segments of society?”

Prof. Michael Bechloss: “I think never in the history of the Presidency, I think it’s pretty fair to say that. And even what we saw with Mr. Miller was an example of that. His saying that the poem doesn’t count because it was put on later, you know, it’s sort of like the Bill of Rights was ratified four years after the Constitution, so Bill of Rights isn’t very important either.”

As Sailer notes:

I guess I must have dozed through the history class when we discussed how Emma Lazarus’s poem was ratified by two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress and then by three-fourths of the states.

Me too!

Facebooktwitter

Cents and Sensibility

From Williams president Morty Schapiro has a new book (with co-author Gary Saul Morson): Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities. Here (pdf) is the first chapter. I love the opening paragraph of the Acknowledgements:

winston

Gordon Winston (RIP) was Morty’s Williams colleague for many years.

Should we spend a week going through the first chapter?

Facebooktwitter

Dangers of Lead

Interesting article from Jennifer Doleac ’03 about the dangers of lead.

A recent investigation by Reuters found that lead exposure affects kids in communities across the country — not just in high-profile cities like
Flint, Michigan. This is worrisome, because elevated blood lead levels in kids have been linked to an array of developmental delays and behavioral problems. More ominously, this could also increase crime. Kevin Drum and others
have argued that lead exposure caused the high crime rates during the 1980s and early 1990s. There has been suggestive evidence of such a link for decades, though it hasn’t gained much traction in research or policy circles. But the case that lead exposure causes crime recently became much stronger.

Read the whole (scary) thing.

Although Jen is (rightly) concerned with national policy, we at EphBlog care about local issues first. Are children in Williamstown and/or the Berkshires exposed to too much lead? How does that exposure vary across the region? What might be done about it? Another great topic for a senior thesis.

Facebooktwitter

Last Hedge Fund Pit Bull

Fun article about Paul Singer P ’96 an a former member of the Williams Investment Committee.

singer

There is a great senior thesis to be written about Singer’s career. Who will write it?

singer2

Also appreciate this:

singer3

As all EphBloggers know, Hans Humes is Williams class of 1987. Note how Hans simultaneously helps out a fellow Eph and brags about his own central role in global financial negotiations. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Facebooktwitter

Marchant ’20 in the Washington Post

Landon Marchant ’20 (hat tip to Professor Sarah Jacobson‏) writes in the Washington Post:

Growing up, no one explicitly told me military service meant respect. They didn’t have to.

American flags flew in countless yards, including my own. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited each morning. Military recruiters knew my high school classmates by name and asked us about athletics and classes. Sporting events began with the national anthem. Military veterans had gainful employment. My evangelical upbringing stressed the importance of selfless service, of setting aside personal desires for the sake of a greater cause.

I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. I am transgender. My story is not unique.

The U.S. military employs as many as 15,500 active duty, National Guard and National Reserve transgender troops, according to a Williams Institute study, which could make it the largest employer of transgender Americans. The research institute also estimated there are 134,000 transgender veterans. Transgender people face higher rates of homelessness, unemployment and health-care discrimination than the average civilian population, and military service can offer economic stability and a sense of purpose.

Read the whole thing.

Facebooktwitter

Ending Kangaroo Courts

Latest from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Is the Education Department preparing to dial back the Obama administration’s assault on campus due process?

Beginning in 2011, the Obama administration used Title IX—the federal law banning sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funds—to pressure colleges and universities into adopting new procedures for handling sexual-misconduct complaints. At most schools, accused students already faced secret tribunals that lacked basic due-process protections. But the Education Department mandated even more unfairness. It ordered schools to lower the standard of proof to “preponderance of the evidence” instead of the “clear and convincing evidence” standard that some schools had used. It required schools to permit accusers to appeal not-guilty findings and discouraged allowing students under investigation to cross-examine their accusers.

Does anyone know exactly what occurred at Williams and when? The above is, I think, consistent with what we have seen, especially the change in the standard of proof. Perhaps even more important was the change in venue. Back in the day (when?) sexual assault was adjudicated at Williams (in those cases with no police involvement) in the same way as any honor code violation: by a committee run and controlled by students. Now, the Honor and Discipline Committee does not hear those cases. They are handled by administrators/faculty with no student involvement.

As always, the more students are involved in activity X, the better for Williams. I have much more faith in the ability of students to judge these cases than I do in folks like Sarah Bolton.

[Trump appointee] Ms. Jackson has one of the most thankless jobs in Washington — seeking to vindicate procedural norms and basic fairness on an issue that triggers intense emotional responses. She deserves all the support she can get.

Indeed. I doubt that anyone who matters at Williams agrees . . .

Facebooktwitter

Seeing Like a State

From the incomparable Slate Star Codex:

Seeing Like A State is the book G.K. Chesterton would have written if he had gone into economic history instead of literature. Since he didn’t, James Scott had to write it a century later. The wait was worth it.

Scott starts with the story of “scientific forestry” in 18th century Prussia. Enlightenment rationalists noticed that peasants were just cutting down whatever trees happened to grow in the forests, like a chump. They came up with a better idea: clear all the forests and replace them by planting identical copies of Norway spruce (the highest-lumber-yield-per-unit-time tree) in an evenly-spaced rectangular grid. Then you could just walk in with an axe one day and chop down like a zillion trees an hour and have more timber than you could possibly ever want.

This went poorly. The impoverished ecosystem couldn’t support the game animals and medicinal herbs that sustained the surrounding peasant villages, and they suffered an economic collapse. The endless rows of identical trees were a perfect breeding ground for plant diseases and forest fires. And the complex ecological processes that sustained the soil stopped working, so after a generation the Norway spruces grew stunted and malnourished. Yet for some reason, everyone involved got promoted, and “scientific forestry” spread across Europe and the world.

And this pattern repeats with suspicious regularity across history, not just in biological systems but also in social ones.

Read the whole thing. James Scott ’58 is, perhaps, the most famous living Eph political scientist. (If not him, then who?)

Best introduction to Scott’s ideas is here. Highly recommended.

Facebooktwitter

Black Entrepreneurship

Former Williams trustee Steven S. Rogers ’79 is teaching at Harvard Business School:

A new course at Harvard Business School, “Black Business Leaders and Entrepreneurship,” focuses on case studies featuring black protagonists in an effort to address a “blatant absence of inclusion” in the school’s curriculum.

Steven S. Rogers, the Business School professor who started the course, said the motivation for starting the course wasn’t to discuss racial discrimination, but rather to tell the stories of successful black business executives.

“One of the things I decided to do was not make it a course that focused on problems, but a course that focused on solutions and the end product of success,” he said.

Beyond moving the Business School curriculum towards including more diverse case protagonists, Rogers said he wants to showcase examples of “black brilliance.”

Read the whole thing.

Facebooktwitter

Smack Down of Norton ’97

Most brutal smackdown of an Eph academic paper ever?

A psychology researcher sent me an email with subject line, “There’s a hell of a paper coming out in PPNAS today.” He sent me a copy of the paper, “Physical and situational inequality on airplanes predicts air rage,” by Katherine DeCelles and Michael Norton, edited by Susan Fiske, and it did not disappoint. By which I mean it exhibited the mix of forking paths and open-ended storytelling characteristic of these sorts of PPNAS or Psychological Science papers on himmicanes, power pose, ovulation and clothing, and all the rest.

There’s so much to love (by which I mean, hate) here, I hardly know where to start.

The Eph involved in Michael Norton ’97. The author is Columbia professor Andrew Gelman. Read the whole thing.

Would any reader defend Norton against this attack? Not me.

Facebooktwitter

Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 5

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 5.

Marcus concludes:

The liberal arts are the arts that make you free. And among the arts that make you free are those that enable you to learn how to deal with contentious conversation, how to inquire, speak, lead, follow and act as an autonomous citizen rather than, as the current local norm seems to have it, demand to be protected against discomfort. The norms of social, intellectual and political tolerance conflict and that adds to the complexity of being at a liberal arts college. We all need to learn to navigate between these contrary norms with practiced competence. It would behoove us all – students, faculty and administrators – to repair the self-inflicted damage and become, once again, a true liberal arts College. But that requires leadership. To that end we need an administration that understands and acts on its many obligations.

Perhaps we will get one in January?

Facebooktwitter

Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 4

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 4.

Allowing this administration to mysteriously determine the boundaries of what “we” tolerate leaves our students unprepared to learn the practice of the liberal arts of citizenship.

Indeed it does. Falk may be giving (leftist) students what they want, but that is not what they need.

These skills of citizenship are evidently sorely lacking in the College student body.

Indeed they are. More students have written op-eds in the Record against speakers like Venker and Derbyshire than for them. Only a small handful of students — Zach Wood ’18 most prominently among them — have come out publicly in support of bringing non-mainstream speakers to Williams.

Tolerant citizens do not tolerate a regime that requires political speech, and posters are just one form of political speech, to be vetted before being allowed.

Why the reference to “posters?” Is there some controversy about this, some new rule from the Administration?

A politically tolerant student body would not tolerate an administration that proclaims it has first and final say over who can be invited to this campus to give an expressly political talk.

I disagree with Marcus’s implicit definition of “politically tolerant.” A majority of Williams students are, with regard to this debate, apolitical. They don’t care who comes to campus or who is prevented from coming to campus. They have better things to worry about!

What Williams lacks is students, like Zack Wood ’18, who are defenders of free speech, insistent on bring a variety of views to the Williams campus, even (or especially!) views they disagree with. I am not sure what the best short description of such students might be, but it certainly isn’t “politically tolerant.”

A politically tolerant citizen would not demand that this or that individual that he or she finds obnoxious be prevented from coming to this campus. A politically tolerant student would not demand that all groups be “vetted” by the administration before they are allowed to organize. A student newspaper competent in the skills and practices of a free press would not go to a senior member of the administration to examine the soundness of a decision made by the senior member of that administration and publish a story that inquired no further.

Indeed. The Record’s coverage of this controversy was sloppy, and it only got worse in their stories about Uncomfortable Learning.

Facebooktwitter

Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 3

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 3.

The doctrine of free speech is not merely a negative principle. But political tolerance is also a positive principle. A free people become so by learning how to competently engage in public, competitive, even hostile, discourse; how to sift the stronger from the weaker; how to use conflictual disputatious citizenship to reveal hidden and corrupt motives and, in sum, how to best use the public space for contestation. But these practices are not natural. In his stance, Falk sells our students short.

Does he really? It is nice that Marcus believes that today’s Williams students are willing to “engage in public, competitive, even hostile, discourse.” But I have my doubts. Recall the official editorial position of the Williams Record:

Though Venker’s speech is legally protected, the College, as a private institution, has its own set of rules about what discourse is acceptable. In general, the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman.

If the Record objects to Venker — someone’s whose views are positively mainstream in comparison to Derbyshire’s — then why would Marcus think that Williams students in general are ready to handle the Alt Right?

Facebooktwitter

Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 2

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 2.

But the definition of political tolerance has long been straightforward: one supports the rights of all but precisely those we find objectionable. We measure political tolerance by seeing whether those proclaiming their tolerance are willing to uphold all political and civil rights for those they find objectionable, whether “they” can give talks, hold rallies, run for office, securely rely on the protection of the laws and more. There is no “line” beyond which we can withdraw those rights because “we” share President Adam Falk’s “outrage” (and here the “we” in Falk’s diatribe means “me, Adam Falk”). His missive exemplifies his intolerance. To that he adds the command that we respect his authority to impose his outrage, no matter how widely or narrowly shared, on the entire community.

All of this is reasonable enough. But, on the whole, Marcus’s op-ed is not nearly as good as Michael Lewis’s. (Regular readers will recall our 5 part series from last year.) If you only have time to read one faculty op-ed attacking Falk, read that one.

Falk speaks of the need to secure social tolerance. This is an essential and, especially at a residential college, vital task. People should feel secure and comfortable here, should receive – at the very least – civility, if not authentic caring and empathy. It is appropriate that the administration strengthens social tolerance where and when it should and where and when it can (in first-year orientation, on Claiming Williams Day, etc.). But social tolerance is not the only form of tolerance to be taught and protected. There are other forms of tolerance that advance conflicting norms and require different skills. They cannot be reconciled.

These two other forms of tolerance are essential if this is to be a liberal arts college. One of these is intellectual tolerance, experienced in the classroom and its other venues. It is in the circumstances of learning that we expose ourselves and our students to new and challenging ideas, ones that are both old and new, that may prove to be uncomfortable for some.

Note the key error. As soon as Marcus asserts that “People should feel secure and comfortable here,” he loses. Derbyshire (and other members of the Dissident Right) really do make people “feel” insecure. That is the whole problem! Much better to invoke the spirit of Robert Gaudino and “uncomfortable learning.”

You can’t simultaneously write “people should feel . . . comfortable” and “we [should] expose . . . our students to . . . ideas . . . that may prove to be uncomfortable . . . .”

Facebooktwitter

Marcus Slams Falk Over Derbyshire, 1

Last year, Professor George Marcus attacked President Adam Falk over his decision to ban John Derbyshire from speaking at Williams. Let’s spend a week discussing his argument. Today is Day 1.

The demise of the College: How the College fails to stay true to the ideals of a liberal arts education

I have never in my career at the College been embarrassed to be associated with it. But now I find that no longer to be true.

Did Marcus choose the title? Either way, the article (along with Professor Michael Lewis’s op-ed) is one of the strongest public attacks against a Williams president, by a faculty member, in living memory. Can anyone recall a similar incident?

My first year at the College was the last year of the long and illustrious career of Frederick L. Schuman, Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government. Years earlier in the fraught ’50s, when the “Red Scare” was in full force, some alumni of a conservative stripe demanded that the College fire “Fred the Red.” Schuman had taken progressive positions and had been called before the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities, irking some alumni (and no doubt others). To his credit, then President James Phinney Baxter rejected that demand.

1) I thought Professor Schuman’s nickname was “Red Fred,” not “Fred the Red.” Can older alumni clarify? Perhaps it changed over time? Perhaps the students used a different one than the faculty?

2) There is a great history senior thesis to be written about this controversy. Who will write it? Isn’t it both sad and pathetic that the History department no longer (?) has a faculty member who is an expert in the history of Williams?

Now we have a president who assigns himself the role of College censor, setting “the line” wherein some can be prevented from talking to the College public. Dean Sarah Bolton tells us not to be concerned because this is only a rare event, that the line is far out there. I presume by that she means that those who espouse “our beliefs” need not worry.

Indeed. By the way, do we have any good gossip as to which member of the “senior staff” provided Falk with such lousy advice? Was it Bolton?

Facebooktwitter

Policy-Based Evidence Making

Latest from Oren Cass ’05:

“Evidence-based policymaking” is the latest trend in expert government. The appeal is obvious: Who, after all, could be against evidence?

Most EBP initiatives seem eminently sensible, testing a plausible policy under conditions that should provide meaningful information about its effectiveness. So it is not surprising to see bipartisan support for the general idea. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray even collaborated on the creation of an Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission that has won praise from both the Urban Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

But the perils of such an approach to lawmaking become clear in practice. Consider, for instance, the “universal basic income” campaign. Faced with the challenge of demonstrating that society will improve if government guarantees to every citizen a livable monthly stipend, basic-income proponents suggest an experiment: Give a group of people free money, give another group no money, and see what happens. Such experiments are underway from the Bay Area to Finland to Kenya to India.

No doubt many well-credentialed social scientists will be doing complex regression analysis for years, but in this case we can safely skip to the last page: People like free money better than no free money. Unfortunately, this inevitable result says next to nothing about whether the basic income is a good public policy.

The flaws most starkly apparent in the basic-income context pervade EBP generally, and its signature method of “controlled” experiments in particular. The standard critique of overreliance on pilot programs, which are difficult to replicate or scale, is relevant but only scratches the surface. Conceptually, the EBP approach typically compares an expensive new program to nothing, instead of to alternative uses of resources — in effect assuming that new resources are costless. It emphasizes immediate effects on program participants as the only relevant outcome, ignoring systemic and cultural effects as well as unintended consequences of government interventions. It places a premium on centralization at the expense of individual choice or local problem-solving.

Politics compounds the methodological shortcomings, imposing a peculiar asymmetry in which positive findings are lauded as an endorsement of government intervention while negative findings are dismissed as irrelevant — or as a basis for more aggressive intervention. Policies that reduce government, when considered at all, receive condemnation if they are anything other than totally painless. Throughout, the presence of evidence itself becomes an argument for empowering bureaucrats, as if the primary explanation for prior government failure was a lack of good information.

The common thread in these shortcomings is an implicit endorsement of the progressive view of the federal government as preferred problem-solver and a disregard for the entire range of concerns that prevent conservatives from sharing that view. Like Charlie Brown with his football, conservatives repeatedly lunge with enthusiasm at the idea that evidence will hold government accountable for results, only to be disappointed. Lauded as a tool of technocratic excellence, EBP more often offers a recipe for creeping statism.

Not that there is anything wrong with “creeping statism,” of course!

Facebooktwitter

Fraud Jessica Torres ’12 in the New York Times

From The New York Times:

In recent years, on campus after campus, from the University of Virginia to Columbia University, from Duke to Stanford, higher education has been roiled by high-profile cases of sexual assault accusations. Now Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is stepping into that maelstrom. On Thursday, she will meet in private with women who say they were assaulted, accused students and their families, advocates for both sides and higher education officials, the first step in a contentious effort to re-examine policies of President Barack Obama, who made expansive use of his powers to investigate the way universities and colleges handle sexual violence.

Meanwhile, groups like Know Your IX, which teaches students their rights under the federal law, have been promoting a hashtag on Twitter, #DearBetsy, and asking people to post their personal stories about sexual assault on Twitter. Jessica Torres, a 27-year-old Democratic strategist, tweeted to Ms. DeVos that she had been raped as a student at Williams College.

“My concern is we’re going back to the years when women and queer students were absolutely terrified of coming forward,” Ms. Torres said in an interview.

The tweet in question:

jt

1) Jessica Torres is a fraud. By committing the 2011 Prospect House hate hoax, she did more damage to the Williams community than any other student in the last decade.

2) Do New York Times Erica Green and Sheryl Stolberg reporters know how to use Google? If you are going to quote someone making a serious accusation, then the least you ought to do is to look into their past. Couldn’t they have found someone who isn’t a documented liar to demonstrate the point that false accusations of rape are not a major problem?

3) If Jessica Torres was raped at Williams, then I would urge her to report the crime to the Williamstown police. Law enforcement in Massachusetts takes sexual assault very seriously. Her assailant should be apprehended, charged, tried and, if found guilty, punished. However, if she made up the accusation after the Williams administration got a little to close in its investigation of the hate hoax, I would recommend that she restrict her public statements to other topics. [UPDATE: Thanks to comment below for clarifying the timing. Torres committed the hate hoax after her (false?) rape report, not before it.]

Back to the article:

Investigative processes have not been “fairly balanced between the accusing victim and the accused student,” Ms. Jackson argued, and students have been branded rapists “when the facts just don’t back that up.” In most investigations, she said, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

“Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’” Ms. Jackson said.

This quote is causing rage among a certain segment of the Eph commentariat. And that is OK! Ephs differ in their assessments of the problem of sexual assault on campus and what to do about it.

But, as always, at EphBlog, we are interested in the data. Do 90% of the cases at Williams look like that or not? If only the College would tell us . . .

Facebooktwitter

KC Johnson on Free Speech

Former Williams professor KC Johnson writes in Commentary:

In early May, the Washington Post urged universities to make clear that “racist signs, symbols, and speech are off-limits.” Given the extraordinarily broad definition of what constitutes “racist” speech at most institutions of higher education, this demand would single out most right-of-center (and, in some cases, even centrist and liberal) discourse on issues of race or ethnicity. The editorial provided the highest-profile example of how hostility to free speech, once confined to the ideological fringe on campus, has migrated to the liberal mainstream.

The last few years have seen periodic college protests—featuring claims that significant amounts of political speech constitute “violence,” thereby justifying censorship—followed by even more troubling attempts to appease the protesters. After the mob scene that greeted Charles Murray upon his visit to Middlebury College, for instance, the student government criticized any punishment for the protesters, and several student leaders wanted to require that future speakers conform to the college’s “community standard” on issues of race, gender, and ethnicity. In the last few months, similar attempts to stifle the free exchange of ideas in the name of promoting diversity occurred at Wesleyan, Claremont McKenna, and Duke. Offering an extreme interpretation of this point of view, one CUNY professor recently dismissed dialogue as “inherently conservative,” since it reinforced the “relations of power that presently exist.”

It’s easy, of course, to dismiss campus hostility to free speech as affecting only a small segment of American public life—albeit one that trains the next generation of judges, legislators, and voters. But, as Jonathan Chait observed in 2015, denying “the legitimacy of political pluralism on issues of race and gender” has broad appeal on the left. It is only most apparent on campus because “the academy is one of the few bastions of American life where the political left can muster the strength to impose its political hegemony upon others.” During his time in office, Barack Obama generally urged fellow liberals to support open intellectual debate. But the current campus environment previews the position of free speech in a post-Obama Democratic Party, increasingly oriented around identity politics.

Waning support on one end of the ideological spectrum for this bedrock American principle should provide a political opening for the other side. The Trump administration, however, seems poorly suited to make the case. Throughout his public career, Trump has rarely supported free speech, even in the abstract, and has periodically embraced legal changes to facilitate libel lawsuits. Moreover, the right-wing populism that motivates Trump’s base has a long tradition of ideological hostility to civil liberties of all types. Even in campus contexts, conservatives have defended free speech inconsistently, as seen in recent calls that CUNY disinvite anti-Zionist fanatic Linda Sarsour as a commencement speaker.

In a sharply polarized political environment, awash in dubiously-sourced information, free speech is all the more important. Yet this same environment has seen both sides, most blatantly elements of the left on campuses, demand restrictions on their ideological foes’ free speech in the name of promoting a greater good.

Indeed. The main thing we can do at EphBlog is to fight this tendency at Williams. Who will join us?

Facebooktwitter

Parchment

Via our friends at Dartblog, we find Parchment:

As a digital credential service we connect learners to P20 academic institutions and employers to issue, receive, and share credentials in simple and secure ways.

Since 2003, our platform has helped millions of people and thousands of schools and universities exchange more than 20 million transcripts and other credentials globally.

Parchment provides data like this:

amcomp

Or this:

hacomp

1) Does anyone know anything about Parchment? Do they really have access to this sort of information? If so, how? I was under the impression that Williams did not provide anyone with a list of students who it accepted but who choose not to enroll.

2) Regardless of the source, is this data accurate? I have heard that, of all students accepted to both Williams and to one of Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford, only 10% choose Williams. So, the 15/85 split with Harvard seems reasonable. But I also thought that we only yielded 50/50 versus Amherst. Is 70/30 correct?

Facebooktwitter

Michael Lewis on Free Speech

Professor Michael Lewis writes in Commentary:

Free speech is a right but it is also a habit, and where the habit shrivels so will the right. If free speech today is in headlong retreat—everywhere threatened by regulation, organized harassment, and even violence—it is in part because our political culture allowed the practice of persuasive oratory to atrophy. The process began in 1973, an unforeseen side effect of Roe v. Wade. Legislators were delighted to learn that by relegating this divisive matter of public policy to the Supreme Court and adopting a merely symbolic position, they could sit all the more safely in their safe seats.

Since then, one crucial question of public policy after another has been punted out of the realm of politics and into the judicial. Issues that might have been debated with all the rhetorical agility of a Lincoln and a Douglas, and then subjected to a process of negotiation, compromise, and voting, have instead been settled by decree: e.g., Chevron, Kelo, Obergefell. The consequences for speech have been pernicious. Since the time of Pericles, deliberative democracy has been predicated on the art of persuasion, which demands the forceful clarity of thought and expression without which no one has ever been persuaded. But a legislature that relegates its authority to judges and regulators will awaken to discover its oratorical culture has been stunted. When politicians, rather than seeking to convince and win over, prefer to project a studied and pleasant vagueness, debate withers into tedious defensive performance. It has been decades since any presidential debate has seen any sustained give and take over a matter of policy. If there is any suspense at all, it is only the possibility that a fatigued or peeved candidate might blurt out that tactless shard of truth known as a gaffe.

A generation accustomed to hearing platitudes smoothly dispensed from behind a teleprompter will find the speech of a fearless extemporaneous speaker to be startling, even disquieting; unfamiliar ideas always are. Unhappily, they have been taught to interpret that disquiet as an injury done to them, rather than as a premise offered to them to consider. All this would not have happened—certainly not to this extent—had not our deliberative democracy decided a generation ago that it preferred the security of incumbency to the risks of unshackled debate. The compulsory contraction of free speech on college campuses is but the logical extension of the voluntary contraction of free speech in our political culture.

Hmmm. Not sure I buy the thesis that American-specific changes in politics caused problems for free speech. How does Lewis explain the fact that free speech is under even greater attack in Great Britain and Germany, despite the fact that their political systems have not (?) changed to favor “the security of incumbency” nearly to the extent that ours has?

Facebooktwitter

Wood ’18 and Lawrence ’77 Testify to Senate, 8

Williams student Zachary Wood ’18 testified (pdf) to United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing: “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” (Also testifying (pdf) was former Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence ’77.) Let’s spend two weeks on this topic. Today is Day 8.

What should Falk/Williams do? Let’s revisit (and revise) my advice from last year. Falk should issue the following statement:

Inspired by the impressive Senate testimony of Zachary Wood ’18 and Frederick Lawrence ’77, I have talked to many Williams faculty, students and alumni. I have now read John Derbsyhire’s book We Are Doomed, having checked it out from our own Sawyer Library. Although I profoundly disagree with Derbyshire’s views on a variety of topics, I now realize that my earlier decision was a mistake. Williams College is precisely the place where these odious opinions need to be explored, confronted and debunked. If not us, then who? If not here, then where? So, in the spirit of uncomfortable learning, I have personally invited John Derbyshire to Williams this fall, where we will stage a debate between him and some of the members of our faculty.

1) This would be a huge gift to Falk’s successor. A departing president has an opportunity to do things that make people angry and, make no mistake, lots of Ephs would be angry about am invitation to Derbyshire. The more that Falk can make the hard decisions — and take the heat associated with them — the more that the next Williams president will thank him.

2) This would close the chapter on one of the biggest mistakes of Falk’s presidency. A reasonable case can be made that, given the information available to him at the time, Falk was in the right to cancel Derbyshire’s talk. But now, with the benefit of hindsight, it is fairly clear that the cancellation was a mistake. And that is OK! We all make mistakes. But we don’t always get the chance to fix them. Falk has that chance.

3) I spoke with two former students of Robert Gaudino at a recent alumni event. Both were 100% certain that Gaudino would be strongly against the Derbyshire cancellation and in favor of more “uncomfortable learning.” But you don’t have to trust them or me on this score. Consider the words of a close student of Williams history:

Liberal education strengthens the mind and spirit so that a human being may more fully engage the world. Since Mark Hopkins’ time a string of Williams educators has further developed this idea. In the middle of the last century Professor Robert Gaudino pushed his charges to learn uncomfortably, in India, in rural America, in situations within the classroom and without that challenged the safe and familiar worlds they’d brought with them. If Mark Hopkins was the first professor to ask his students, “What do you think?” then Gaudino and others, including faculty of today, have raised the asking of that question, with all its implicit challenge, to a form of art.

Emphasis in the original. The speaker? Adam Falk.

To the extent Falk really believes in Gaudino’s legacy, in the importance of uncomfortable learning, there is no better tribute he can now pay than to invite John Derbyshire to Williams.

Facebooktwitter

← Previous PageNext Page →

Currently browsing posts authored by David Dudley Field '25

Follow David Dudley Field '25 via RSS